The Beat Chicago

Fame, The Movie In Retrospect



FAME was the movie to see in 1980 if you were a teenager or in your early 20’s.

The soundtrack featured great music from Irene Cara and more.  You’re bound to hear some of those songs here on The Beat

Below you can listen to the entire soundtrack on demand along with clips from the movie. interviews and live performances from the cast to more information about this classic.


Released in May of 1980, the film would go on to inspire countless TV shows, musicals and more.

As a TV show, it would last six seasons.  In 2009, the movie was remade not to mention all the copy cat type shows it inspired, including Glee.

Set in New York City, Fame chronicles the lives and hardships of students attending the High School of Performing Arts (known today as Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School), from their auditions to their freshman, sophomore, junior and senior years.

Producer David De Silva conceived the premise in 1976, partially inspired by the musical A Chorus Line. He commissioned playwright Christopher Gore to write the script, originally titled Hot Lunch, before selling it to MGM. After he was hired to direct the film, Parker rewrote the script with Gore, aiming for a darker and dramatic tone.

The script’s subject matter received criticism by the New York Board of Education, which prevented the production from filming in the actual High School of Performing Arts. The film was shot on location in New York City, beginning in July 1979.  It took about three months to complete the shoot.

MGM released Fame using a platform technique that involved opening the film in several cities before releasing it nationwide.

The film received several awards and nominations, including two Academy Awards for Best Original Song (“Fame”) and Best Original Score, and a Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song (“Fame”).

The movie’s budget was 8.6 million and grossed over 42 million dollars, not too shabby for a time when the entire country was still in the grasp of a horrible economy, high unemployment, inflation and misery.

Starring Eddie Barth and others including Jim Moody whom I had worked with on the 1982 film ‘Bad Boys’) and, a young Irene Cara who’d go on to even wider fame with her “Flashdance, What A Feelin'” hit in 1983 which was produced by Grammy-winning visionary producer, Giorgio Moroder

Also featured in the movie were the amazing talents of the late Gene Anthony Ray who played Leroy Johnson.  While he had little training as a dancer, his talents carried him.  He also played in the TV series from 1982 to 1987.  An aspiring dancer, Ray actually attended the New York High School of Performing Arts which inspired the film.

Regarding the multi-Emmy award-winning actress Debbie Allen: she came along for the TV show in 1982 where she played dance teacher Lydia Grant, and served as the series’ principal choreographer.

She is currently on Grey’s Anatomy where she plays Catherine Fox and, for those who don’t know, is the younger sister of Phylicia Rashad.

While the critics weren’t too thrilled with the movie, we don’t acknowledge them, after all, how important is some person who watches a movie to tell you what they think when you can think all on your own.

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